How are things this week? I hope you’re well and looking forward to finishing the week on a high note.

I’m still getting to grips with work, so much to do, the personal and professional fighting for my attention – I suspect you can imagine the situation.

Yesterday for example, I cleared the table after breakfast – everything went into the dishwasher or the fridge – before moving into the living room where I opened my laptop as I contemplated work.

The priority task was finalising a presentation before recording: final review, last tweaks, polishing for flow. While PowerPoint was loading I decided to get a cup of tea… and in the kitchen sink I found the porridge pan, soaking. Too big for the dishwasher… should I clean it now, make the tea or get back to my PowerPoint?

As I carried my tea into the living room I became aware of a set of hand weights in the corner of the room and remembered my resolution to complete a short weights workout each day. I picked them up, tried a few biceps curls before asking – now or after I finish tweaking the presentation?!

“Focus!” I thought and started to review the slides, talking myself through the storyline. A few minutes in I get notification of an email from a client checking details for a workshop I’m delivering next month, providing a PO number and saying she’ll share the Zoom link and handouts as soon as she receives them from me…

I’m immediately triggered. Is she implying that I’m not doing my job well enough? Should I have sent the handouts already? I switch applications, go the appointment, copy the Zoom link into my reply, attach the pdf file of the handouts and…

I see that I’ve been hijacked. Out of practice over the holiday period I’ve already fallen foul of several common productivity traps. Time to take a deep breath. Reset.

Time to remind myself of the better ways to tackle work and prioritisation. Even a coach can occasionally forget to do the good stuff she knows!

I support many of my clients to create and maintain helpful habits that make huge differences to their lives – this week I’m preparing to open some new coaching slots so watch out for the news. You can see my general coaching programmes here. It seems timely to remind myself of some of the basics that work.

I find it really helps to have a plan. I start my day already having chosen my number one priority for the day. I have a time to start and a process to mark the transition from domestic work to professional work. I know where I want to focus. Today I knew that reviewing my presentation was my primary focus for this morning.

When I’m well organised I use time blocking – I set times, appointments or blocks of time for different activities. I choose my best time of day – morning for me – for my most important activity.

Setting a definite time, an appointment for my weights workout would make the workout far more likely to happen and, when I see the hand-weights I’d know with certainty that they already have their allotted time spot and I won’t be distracted. Should I choose after breakfast and before starting work or right before lunch? No. Let’s be honest, if I’m hungry I’ll be more tempted to skip weights in favour of eating, my willpower isn’t great when I’m hungry!

My “transition to professional work” ritual often includes opening the laptop and making tea – so what to do when I see the porridge pan in the kitchen sink? Here I apply a little tip I learned from Gretchen Rubin.

If it takes less than a minute to complete the task, do it. Otherwise the debate about whether or not to do the task takes longer than getting it done. Everything else is relegated to the next “do things that came up” slot in my schedule. Yes, I have a “matters arising” category of appointments when I review and/or deal with things that come up, ideas that pop-up or things I randomly remember.

When I sit at my laptop I close down my email. In truth I’ve already done a brief screen of my inbox on my phone and I know there’s nothing life-threateningly urgent to be dealt with so, according to plan I want to focus on my chosen priority. I certainly know I don’t need to be disturbed by pop-ups. Being hijacked by email is a very bad habit that always reduces effectiveness!

I remind myself that I have alerts for all my workshops set weeks in advance to remind me to send Zoom links and handouts in plenty of time – I don’t need to be triggered by a friendly email from a colleague that was certainly more of a “Happy New Year” greeting than a “Why haven’t you sent me the workshop details already” demand.

Have a process, trust the process.

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The transition from holiday time to work time is challenging for most people after a long holiday break at any time but particularly so this year.

I need to make time to remind myself of the good habits that work for me:

  • the value of having a plan,
  • the importance of choosing priorities
  • regular appointments for tasks that are important to me
  • having and using a system to deal with the unexpected

These are tried and tested ways to avoid getting hijacked…

An abundance of self-compassion when I get it wrong is also helpful. Noticing my failure and having a way to get back on track is far more important than letting my inner critic loose with self-recrimination.

Is there anything you need help with this January as you re-establish good working habits? Would a little support from a coach help you get back on track? Do let me know – simply reply to this email or use the contact page. I’d love to hear from you!

Best wishes,